November 27, 2017

What magical misleading thinking could explain the Basel Committee’s bank regulation idiocy?

I refer to Andrew Hill’s “The magical thinking that misleads managers” November 27.

Sir, what magical misleading thinking could lay behind regulators wanting banks to hold the most capital for when something perceived risky turns out risky, when it really is when something perceived very safe turns out to be very risky, that one would like banks to have the most of it?

“Numerology…mumbo-jumbo”? Well if you read through the Basel Committee’s 2005 “An Explanatory Note on the Basel II IRB (Internal Rating Based) Risk Weight Function”, that could be it.

“Leaps of faith”? Absolutely. Believing that by allowing some few human fallible credit rating agencies to decide instead of millions of eyes, and thereby intrducing the mother of all systemic risks (as I warned in 2003 in a letter published by FT) was effectively one of the greatest centralized leap of faiths ever.

“Throw a coin and make a wish”? Believing that the risk weighted capital requirements would not distorts the allocation of bank credit can only remind me of “Three coins in the fountain”, although in that movie the girls' dreams came true.

“Chants and mantras”? The whole minute by minute growing and expanding Basel Committee’s regulations cannot but be a prime example of that.

“Human sacrifice”? Though they never ever cause a major bank crisis how many millions of entrepreneurs have not been denied the often life changing opportunity of a credit in the name of this so badly understood stability.

“Hero worship”? Just look at all those members of that mutual admiration club of technocrats who are able to promote themselves even in the face of a financial crisis that resulted from allowing banks to leverage so excessively when lending to the 0% risk weighted “infallible” sovereigns, the 20% risk weighted AAArisktocracy and the 35% risk weighted financing of houses?

Hill ends arguing that “humble deference to unpredictable and poorly understood outside forces would be healthy”. Indeed, but how is that to happen if public opinion makers, like the Financial Times, refuse to hold the regulators accountable, perhaps because they all like to be seen as part of thei exclusive network... and be invited to Davos.